Calls for industry focus on inclusive environments to improve diversity

The finance industry needs to work harder at creating an inclusive environment, rather than simply focusing on the numbers behind diversity, according to LGBT Great global managing director, Matt Cameron.

Speaking at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) ESG Conference 2021, Cameron said inclusivity was about creating a “culture and environment” where diversity could thrive, adding that the industry had perhaps focused on the numbers too much because of its pre-existing focus on data.

He explained: “We have to be realistic in what we can achieve and the interventions needed in order to shift the dial need to be a bit more specific. We need to shift the mindset from just focusing on diversities and how many women, how many black people, how many LGBT people, to looking at how we can get the right culture, do this together and equip executive leaders to understand and confront the issues.”

Cameron called for consideration of what activities and interventions might actually make a difference, as well as what everyone’s role might be within these.

He also emphasised the importance of role-models as a means for inspiring people who are not stereotypically members of the industry, noting that they can show individuals “what is possible” and give “confidence”.

Finally, he noted that it was worth making small changes over time, stating that these could give everyone a role in improving the inclusivity of working environments.

He concluded: “How we achieve inclusion and how we inspire, rather than enforce, is really critical for the future of our industry.”

In terms of structural changes, Cameron called for diversity and inclusion to be considered beyond simply the realm of human resources departments, pointing out that if businesses can get the issue right then it can actually make them more competitive and attractive to potential customers.

MFS investment officer, Anne-Christine Farstad, added: “Often, diverse talent can be perceived as more difficult, and are described as tricky or argumentative. I came across it myself and was always described as ‘feisty’. What I really benefitted from was people taking the time to have difficult conversations with me.”

She reasoned that, when people feel excluded they can “act out”, creating a “vicious circle” where they are viewed as more and more difficult and less and less attractive as management material.

Farstad commented: “Have the respect for everyone to have the difficult conversation with them and make them feel valued. Who knows, you may see their behaviour transformed.”

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